But there is something to be said for the forgotten, struggling poet who produced a good poem that has been lost in the Mists of Time. These poems are waiting patiently for us in out-of-the-way anthologies.
James Torrington Bell (1898-1970), "Carnoustie House" (1962)
For instance, I recently came across the following poem in Georgian Poetry 1920-1922, the final entry in Edward Marsh's series of anthologies. The usual names are there -- Walter de la Mare, W. H. Davies, Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden -- but so is William Kerr, who I had not heard of before.
Mere living wears the most of life away:
Even the lilies take thought for many things,
For frost in April and for drought in May,
And from no careless heart the skylark sings.
Those cheap utilities of rain and sun
Describe the foolish circle of our years,
Until death takes us, doing all undone,
And there's an end at last to hopes and fears.
Though song be hollow and no dreams come true,
Still songs and dreams are better than the truth:
But there's so much to get, so much to do,
Mary must drudge like Martha, dainty Ruth
Forget the morning music in the corn,
And Rachel grudge when Leah's boys are born.
William Kerr, in Edward Marsh (editor), Georgian Poetry 1920-1922 (1922).
As far as I can discover, Kerr published a single volume of verse: The Apple Tree (in 1927). It turns out that he and Ivor Gurney were friends. Part of me wishes to hear a Gurney echo in "mere living wears the most of life away." Or in: "Though song be hollow and no dreams come true,/Still songs and dreams are better than the truth." But that is pure speculation.
James Torrington Bell, "Landscape"
Here is another poem from the same volume.
On a Friend Who Died Suddenly
Upon the Seashore
Quiet he lived, and quietly died;
Nor, like the unwilling tide,
Did once complain or strive
To stay one brief hour more alive.
But as a summer wave
Serenely for a while
Will lift a crest to the sun,
Then sink again, so he
Back to the bright heavens gave
An answering smile;
Then quietly, having run
His course, bowed down his head,
And sank unmurmuringly,
Sank back into the sea,
The silent, the unfathomable sea
Of all the happy dead.
J. D. C. Pellow, in Ibid.
Pellow gained some notoriety in his day when his poem "The Temple" was selected as one of the thirteen poems examined by I. A. Richards in Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (1929). In response to Richards's request to use the poem, Pellow good-naturedly responded: "It is pleasant to know that I am serving the cause of science!" Ibid, page 367. Pellow no doubt knew what he was in for at the hands of Richards. But perhaps he got the last laugh: Pellow's poem received the highest "favourable" ranking from the Cambridge students who read and analyzed the poems selected by Richards, thus triumphing over poems by John Donne, Christina Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Hardy, and D. H. Lawrence. Ibid, page 365.
Those of you who hold to strict critical principles may find this sort of poem to be not worthy of close attention. I concede that J. D. C. Pellow is not Thomas Hardy or W. B. Yeats. Call me soft-hearted or soft-headed or bereft of critical principles (whatever they are), but I like (unapologetically) this poem. And I love the last four lines.
James Torrington Bell, "Braes of Downie" (1938)